It's easy to praise Heschel; there is so much for which one can express tributes of the highest regard. In one spiritual context, Heschel rises to heights that are "le-eila u'leila"-beyond all imaginable heights.We can't judge Heschel as a 'pray-er;' but to me there was no one as eloquent and spiritually insightful about the meaning of prayer.
Among his most well-known statements about the purpose of prayer are the following:
"Prayer may not save us ,but prayer makes us worthy of praise."
"The issue of prayer is not prayer; the issue of prayer is God."
"Prayer teaches us what to aspire to...prayer implants in us ideals we ought to cherish."
"Prayer is no panacea, no substitute for action; It is, rather like a beam thrown from a flashlight before us into the darkness."
"The focus of prayer is not the self...in beseeching Him for bread, there is one instant, at least, in which our mind is directed neither to our hunger nor to food, but to His mercy. This instant is prayer."
"Prayer is an invitation to God to intervene in our lives."
"The word of prayer is like a pledge in the making."( Curiously, this definition comes quite close to Mordechai Kaplan's 'naturalistic' understanding of prayer as a 'pledge of allegiance').
"Prayer begins where expression ends."
In sum ,prayer is the core of the religious quest as it directs our souls away from ourselves and our petty concerns to God and the concerns of others and the world. Prayer is an instrument that helps us play the song of spiritual maturity , seeing life and the world from the perspective of the transcendent Source of our existence and the wonder of all things.
Finally, prayer engenders gratefulness."It is gratefulness which makes the soul great."
We thank you again, noble and revered "rebbe."